« PreviousContinue »
Members of the Established Church,
THE YEAR 1829.
THE TWENTY-NINTH VOLUME.
PRINTED BY ELLERTON AND HENDERSON,
PUBLISHED BY J. HATCHARD AND SON, PICCADILLY.
Wr: are happy to avail ourselves of the intercourse with our readers which the preface to another concluded volume affords us, to express again our gratitude to God, and our obligations to our valued friends and correspondents, for whatever of interest or utility may have accompanied our labours. There are many important subjects upon which we should gladly expatiate, and hope to do shortly; but they would require far more than the few paragraphs of a preface, and must therefore be reserved for the pages of another volume.
The last year has been an eventful one in our ecclesiastical annals. During the preceding were broken down those barriers, which, by the desecration of the Lord's supper to secular purposes, excluded (nominally at least) the Protestant Dissenters from the pale of our political constitution. The annual indemnity acts had, however, opened so wide a gap, that the exclusion was only in name, and the restoration only on parchment; but during the present year barriers far more firm, and in which no such gap was allowed, have been swept away, and with a concussion of elements so tremendous, that we can only impute it to the mercy of God, and not to the equanimity of human passions, that the land is again so soon enjoying a measure of quiet, and the reciprocation of brotherly intercourse. That was indeed a struggle, in which religious as well as political men could not but feel intensely interested ; one in which honest differences of opinion might well arise ;-but we will not allude to bygone conflicts; only let not one Christian continue to judge the motives or the conscience of another, or cherish rankling animosities, which ought to be buried in oblivion. Those at least who feel the strongest, in truth, in argument, and in Scripture, will have the least need for bard words or unkind deeds.
Among the topics to which some of our pages will probably be devoted in the ensuing year, one is the state of our revered church. We attach not the slightest credit to the vague notion which has gone abroad, that the government have any intention of bringing forward the question of what is called a "reform” in our ecclesiastical services. We say not that those services are perfect, for nothing human is so ; but they are so wise, so holy, and in every way so invaluable, that we should dread and deprecate the rude hand of innovation--and most of all in these times-far more than
the continuance of any alleged trifling inconvenience. Our practical discipline, indeed, grievously wants mending; but for that blessing we look forward, rather to public feeling and the growth of true piety among us, than to legislative control. A few measures of detail may possibly be in contemplation, such as facilitating the ejection of scandalous beneficed clergymen, leasing tithes for a limited period for a less litigated equivalent in money; and we should not be sorry to add, the better regulation of our ecclesiastical courts. We dare not hope for much being effectually and speedily done by the legislature to promote clerical residence, and to enable every clergyman to live with a fair competency upon his cure. But it is useless to speculate by anticipation. If proposals of alleged amendment, either as respects our formularies, our spiritual discipline, or the secularities of our Establishment, should be seriously brought forward in parliament, it will be time enough to discuss them upon their own merits. Our articles, our homilies, our liturgy, our episcopal regimen, and the general detail of our church regulations, are far too dear to us to allow of our listening with very sanguine hopes to newly-projected schemes of amendment; but we do hope for niuch, very much, from that effusion of Divine grace which we trust has been afforded us, in a measure not equalled since the days of Reformation. Though far from crying, Peace, peace, or wishing to stifle inquiry, we see in the greatly-improved character of our clergy, in the better employment of church patronage, and in the spiritual signs of the times, symptoms of hope and occasions for joy, which call for the deepest gratitude to the Author of every good and perfect gift. When had we so many bishops, deans, archdeacons, and other dignitaries, of whom it may be truly said, that they are really, as well as professionally, men of God? When was the Gospel of our salvation so clearly proclaimed from so many of our national pulpits? When was so much done by our clergy and the pious lay members of our church (for we are confining our argument at present to our own pale, without, however, meaning to disparage the efforts of religious men of other communions), to instruct the poor and to educate the rising generation in the nurture and admonition of the Lord ? These are glorious indications; and we do rejoice in them, and will rejoice, notwithstanding all the contumely that has of late been poured upon the mass of the Christian community of this nation, by some among us who see no symptoms but those of defection and decay. We also, in our turn, will use the probe; we will not, God being our helper, shrink from the duty of pointing out, in a spirit of brotherly love, the manifold sins, negligences, and ignorances which abound among us; but let us be just as well as fearless; let us be as keen to observe excellencies as defects; the work of God, as the counterplotting of Satan ; and let us not imitate that enemy of all good in becoming virulent" accusers of the brethren,” even though in many things they are to be blamed.”
We must expect, while we lament, innumerable evils; we must expect, even, the very ebullitions to which we have alluded. Our own pages, for nearly thirty years, have born frequent witness to the springing up and dying away of novelties in the Church of Christ : the present
novelties will soon follow the course of their predecessors, and we do not wish to prolong their existence, or to extend their range, by dwelling more than is necessary upon them. Only, in the mean time, alas! the seamless robe of our Redeemer is rent, and the Saviour is crucified afresh, and wounded in the house of his friends.
We have wandered so widely over matters in general, that we have left no space to discharge the usual duties of a preface, as respects our own publication. We can only attribute it to the kindness of our readers, and the able pens of our respectedcorrespondents, that amidst the multiplication of newer religious periodical publications, and while at least half a score have arisen and been extinguished during the term of our literary life, our own existence is prolonged, and our pages continue to be received with indulgence by the public. We might justly have feared that, when death had torn from the list of our contributors such beloved and valued names as those of Venn, Thornton, Buchanan, Jowett, Bowdler, Heber, Hey, Pearson, Richmond-we might greatly enlarge the list-each lamented chasm would long bave continued unoccupied ; but not a few of our early friends, whom we may not designate, still survive with their first energies, and an untired pen, while newer correspondents have joined their ranks--many of whose names, when they cease to bear them, our successors will not fear to inscribe beside those we have just enumerated. There is one class of papers, in particular, in which we earnestly entreat their assistance, and which, for want of a better phrase, we would denominate spiritual essuys; not critiques, or barren disquisitions, or ordinary sermons; but such papers as a well-informed Christian will delight to take up after the cares of the day, not only for mental gratification, but for “ his soul's health,” and which may, by the blessing of God, lead the general reader to discern the character of true religion, its hopes, its joys, its duties, its conflicts, and its consolations.